Notes on the "Hello Goodbye" (HG)
KEY C Major
FORM Verse -> Refrain -> Verse -> Refrain ->
Verse (half instrumental) -> Refrain ->
Verse -> Refrain -> 1st Outro (w/complete ending) ->
2nd Outro (fadeout)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- The style here is campy though it's not as easily pigeon-holded
as, say, "When I'm Sixty-four"
or "Your Mother Should Know". Yes, it's
infectious and clever beyond what initially meets the ear, but it's also
just a tad over-produced, IMHO.
- The form is unusual, with no intro, strictly alternating verse
and refrain sections, and an additional outro section.
- They were obviously very fond of the fake/second ending gambit;
you get to a point where the gesture of it ( "THE END ...
or is it?") starts to feel like a cinematic cliche. All the same,
you must acknowledge how clever those Beatles were at finding
multifarious ways of playing this same treat. Think about how
"Strawberry Fields Forever",
the Sgt. Pepper inner groove,
and "Her Majesty" from each other; not
to mention the mysterious un-numbered final track on A3 :-)
Melody and Harmony
- The verse sections are in a pandiatonically luxuriating kind of
C Major. The refrain, by contrast broadens both the melodic and
harmonic ingredient lists to include blue notes and chords. I
believe the only two of the 12 possible pitches to not appear in
this song are Db and F#; actually, the latter makes a cameo
appearance in the chromatically descending bassline of the first outro.
- The tune makes heavy use of arpeggio fragments; in fact, I challenge
you to find anywhere in the lead vocal where there are two steps in
a row, uninterrupted by a jump and/or change of direction.
- In keeping with the mixed-message/approach-avoidance theme of
the lyrics, the harmony flirts *heavily* with intimations of V->I
consumation, while its actual cadences turn out to be predominantly
plagal or deceptive, the main exception to this being the transition
between verse and refrain.
- The tape is saturated by the unusual scoring of piano, organ, violas,
drums, and miscellaneous percussion instruments captured unnaturally
close up. Yes, there's a mocking-bird kind of lead guitar lick in
there too, right before the "oh no!" of each verse. This feeling of
immediacy is intensified by the palpitating emphasis on every single
beat of the measure in the rhythm track. The latter is especially
noticeable on the take 1 instrumental outtake that's been around on
boots for years.
- A running scale motif unifies the piece: the downward bassline in
both verse and refrain, balanced by the upward line in the background
of the refrain.
- The backing voices are sparingly used within the body of the song.
In the second refrain they start off doubling the upward scale and
finish off with a downward bluesy lick. In the third verse, they
provide an antiphonal obligato to the lead vocal. This is a wise
tactic, given their more complete participation in the second outro.
If they did not appear at all before that outro, their appearance
there would seem a bit arbitrary. If they received more exposure
in the body of the song, their effect would wear out its welcome
by the time the outro arrived.
- Dig how those violas double the downward scale (sans backing voices)
in second verse.
- The verse is an unusual 17 measures long, though you might say
that the final measure overlaps with the start of the refrain.
- The internal phrasing is far from four-square in spite of the
even harmonic rhythm and the approximately 16 measure form. There's
also a hocket effect at the end of the third phrase where the voice
drops out and the lead guitar provides that sighing "C -> A" motif.
chords: |d |- |C |- |
bass: F C
C: ii6/5 I
|G |- |a |- |
G A G F E D C B A
|G |- |a |- |
|G |- |- |- |- |C
13/11 5/3 11/9/7
- Harmonically we have a non-I opening. The theorists are
divided on whether to parse the first chord as d minor 7
in first (ii6/5) inversion, or as an F Major chord (IV) with
added sixth. Either way, it makes for a plagal cadence with
the code that follows it.
- The first two appearances of V resolve deceptively to vi. The
third appearance of V is, indeed, allowed to resolve to I but
only after a big-band/late 19th century symphonic pedal point
build up. Yes, you can label what I call the G 13/11 chord
three measures from the end a C Major chord in second (6/4)
inversion, but when you take those three measures in as a
sequence, I hear it with G as the root note throughout.
- The refrain is a true 16 measures long with a predictable ABAB'
chords: |C |- |a |- |
bass: C B A G
|F |Ab |C |- |
IV flat-IV I
|C |- |a |- |
|F |Bb |C |- |
IV flat-VII I
- The bassline of the two A phrases still descends, though four
time as slowly as it did before. This contrasts nicely with
the upward scale in the accompaniment that mimics the quarter
note motion in the scale heard earlier.
- The heavy exposure to V in the verse is sufficient to warrant
it's being excluded entirely from the refrain. Not only that,
the two B phrases use a different V surrogate to cadence with I.
Flat IV is a plagal substitute, and flat VII, while arguably a
"dominant" substitute for V, has a much more laid back feel to
it than the V->I "full" cadence. Imagine how anti-climactic and
lame the song would be if V were used here in place of flat VI and VII.
- The downward bluesy lick sung by the backing vocals contains
the unusual melodic interval of an augmented 4th:
Ab -> E -> D -> C
Hel- lo Good-bye
This provides, BTW, a good object lesson about musical orthography.
Although Ab-to-E is enharmonically identical to the Major 3rd of
G#-to-E, it feels entirely different in the throat. Try it out:
play an E natural on your instrument of choice and single the
internal of E-G#-E. Then play an F natural, and sing the hello
goodbye phrase noted above.
- The first outro starts off as a repeat of the refrain, but after
six measures it veers off onto a rhetorical tangent as the bassline
descends, this time, chromatically (no, those intervening harmonies
don't deserve individual Roman numerals):
chords: |C |- |a |- |
bass: C B A G
|F |Ab |- |- |- |F |C |- |
F Ab - G Gb F
IV flat-IV IV7 I
- The instrumental outtake treats the last two measures above in tempo,
proceeding, rather matter of factly, right into the second outro. On
the official recording, the amount of time given to that last chord
is much more indeterminate, largely because of the way in which Paul
slows down his vocal at the last minute. Of course, this very
effectively sets up the surprise effect of what follows.
- The second outro is built on a vamping 4 measure phrase that is
harmonically on top of a C Major pedal point. The underlying
counterpoint in this section contains very typically Beatlesque
vocals: |C |- A |G G | |
piano: |E |- D |C C | |
Bassline: |C |- |- |- |
- The phrase is repeated 6 full times before the fadeout sets in,
the latter becoming total in the midst of what is the 9th repeat.
This little coda occupies 46 seconds of a 3:31 track!
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- There is an ironic tension between the lyrics and the musical mood
of this song that operates on a deeper level than the irony of the
- The words sound like a whimsical update of that sentimental favorite
of the 1930s, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off;" i.e. "You say tomayto,
and I say tomahto ..."
- The music, though, has a nervous, pounding, passion that seems to
curiously belie the words. After all, I'm left wondering, is this guy
in a hurry, a panic, or in some kind of ecstasy of arrival? And is
it even possible to imagine that the musical state conveyed here is
a combination of all three?
"Course he can talk. He's a human being, like. Isn't he?" 110496#120
Copyright (c) 1996 by Alan W. Pollack
All Rights Reserved
This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and
otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains
intact and in place.